Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Pleasant Surprise: A Very Old Version of Buzz's Rules to Live By

A while back I shared with you "Buzz Rules to Live By", a list I started about 30 years ago to make me a better person and employee (ah, the innocence of youth!).

Anyhow, in the category of "blasts from the past", just today a former co-worker of mine named M3 Sweatt (one of the few names even better than mine!) who's now a hot shot at Microsoft pinged me with a photocopy of the original Rules-the staff who I worked with back then had the list laminated into a little plastic wallet card that many of them (including this old friend) still carry around with them.

M3's message that I've had a positive impact on some of my friends and co-workers all these years later really made my day. Thanks M3!

And for those who'd like to see M3's blog (it's really great especially for the technoscenti amongst us), here it is:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Word of the Day: KLISMOS

Klismos. Sounds familiar, right? But what exactly is it? Let's make this a multiple choice question:


A. A lovely Jewish folk band of rag-tag musicians that play tunes like The Dreidel Song and dance around with bottles on their heads:

Bottle dancing is actually quite therapeutic. When I'm down in the dumps, I often slap on my yamulka and dance around the living room with a bottle of Bud Light on my head, swirling and weaving to the hypnotic melodies of Hava Nagila. Try it sometime. It's a sure way to beat the blues and at the same time get yourself evicted.

But wait. I just realized that these bands aren't called KLISMOS, they're called KLEZMERS. Close enough in my opinion. In any event, if you've got a Bar Mitzvah coming up, you might want to hire my favorite Klezmer ensemble ironically called "The Wholesale Klezmers" (I'm not making this up either, which is pretty funny, at least to me). And here they are:

Ok, so now we know that "A" is not the right answer. Let's move on to "B":

B. Klismos is an unsightly rash like psoriasis but thankfully can be treated with antibiotics. A friend of mine had a bad case of klismos around her bikini line and it ruined her entire summer. So talk to your doctor before taking Klismos to make sure it's right for you. Side affects include headaches, blurred vision, and hot-dog fingers.

If you thought this was the right answer, go immediately to a therapist and expain that you're a hypochondriac with way too much time on your hands. The correct answer is "C":

C. Klismos, pronounced "KLIZ mahs" (plural is KLIZ moy) is a chair style first created in 4th-century BC Greece with outswept saber legs and a concave toprail back.

The chairs are sometimes given arms, sometimes not.

Klismos chairs were designed to be elegrant and light, so that they could be easily carried. Their popularity is attested to by their frequent appearance in Greek pottery paintings from that era. Here's an image of Sappho, the ancient Greek poetess, taking a well deserved break in her groovy klismos chair (is it just me or does she have a VERY BIG HEAD?):

Around the 3rd-century BC the klismos style virtually disappeared until the 18th century rediscoveries of Pompeii and Herculaneum when the style was revived as part of the Neoclassical movement.

The elite designers of the time, including Georges Jacob (the favorite designer for Napoleon I and Empress Josephine) and Thomas Hope played key roles in reviving the ancient form.

And klismos chairs have remained wildly popular since then. Consider this famous Klismos designed in 1937 by Robsjohn-Gibbons. Isn't it dreamy?

And what are my favorite set of Klismos chairs? Glad you asked: they're this 18th century Italian polychrome set of eight that we have at C. Mariani. They have cane seats and are embellished with extraordinary neoclassical motifs of colorful urns, scrolling vines and flowers:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Word of the day: VAISELLIER

A client of mine dropped by the other day and said, "Hey Buzz, do you have any of those French cupboards that have plate racks on the top and storage in the bottom?"

And I said, "Of definitely! Those are called um, uh, duh...well...I can't remember what they're called!" Yes, I had a senior moment (or in less polite company, a brain fart). Glad she didn't ask me who the President is. Just kidding, I know it's Herbert Hoover....

Anyhow, then I slapped myself (I rarely resort to violence but sometimes it's necessary) and I suddenly I remembered: it's called a VAISELLIER!

So I picked vaisselier as our word of the today because it's tough to spell, hard to pronounce, and easy for me to forget (!).
A vaisselier, pronounced "veh suhl YAY", is a cabinet typically used in modern dining rooms or kitchens that have open shelves on the top and a cupboard below, like this one:

But wait. Isn't that a bed next to the vaisellier? Indeed it is. You very smart little grasshopper and here's why: hundreds of years ago, people often only had one or two rooms in their homes and often a single room served as a bedroom, dining room, and even kitchen.

Hard to believe when these days people name their homes "Villa de Mansion" and think that 25,000 square feet is just right now that the kids are gone.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Last night I had a lot of time to contemplate life.

I turned off The Bachelor when "Jake the Pilot" turned out to be a big cry baby with impaired judgment as to what a sane bride should be.

Plus that sappy "On the Wings of Love" theme was giving new meaning to the word cheese. And that was making me hungry.

So I turned off the show and decided to ponder something equally important: the meaning of life.

And what did this deep introspection reveal? Two very important life paths that I still might take before I join that Great Antique Gallery in the Sky:

1) DEVOTE MYSELF TO THE CHURCH AND ITS VESTMENTS. One big plus: if you get high enough up the ecclesiastical ladder, you get to wear the coolest outfits, many of which are made of "cloth of gold!" How sa-weet is that!?

Plus I love the name for that fabric: cloth of gold is called "drap d'or" which you'd think would rhyme with trap door, right? But it's actually pronounced "drah DOOR". But as a Bishop or better yet a Cardinal, I'd insist on calling my gold frocks "DRAP DOORS".

So when members of my flock would compliment me on my "smock of gleaming gold", I could say, "Why this old thing?! It's just one of my many drap doors." And then they'd walk away perplexed and wondering what profound piece of wisdom I had just shared with them.

If any members of my family are reading this, I know what you're thinking: "Buzz, you nitwit, you can't be a Cardinal... you're Jewish for chrissake! Better you should become a Rabbi who works on the side as an antique dealer." My answer is simple: Rabbi's don't wear "cloth of gold" and polyester blends give me a rash.

2) I COULD ALSO DEDICATE MY LIFE TO WEIRD SOFAS. At this point, I figure I already spend 60% of my life prone on the couch watching TV (BTW, we never use the word "couch" in polite company unless you grew up in Van Nuys, which I did. For the rest of you, say "sofa" and you won't sound like a hayseed). Here's an example of a very weird sofa:

Anyhow, in my golden years, I've become something of a pomme de canape (couch potato). And you know what? I really like it! Plus, my guidance counselor in Junior High told me: "Do what you love and the money will follow." Of course he died dirt poor. But anyhow...

The reason "the sofa life" would be fun is that I could watch every "Real Housewives" episode to see what incredibly bad taste most of them have in antiques and home decorating. I mean really....some of those homes are crimes against nature, not to mention supremely tacky. But these design disasters are just like car crashes-they're so horrible you just can't look away. Don't believe me? Howz about this Jersey housewife sofa?

Plus, I love telling people that the world of weird sofas is a science that only the privileged, the smart, and the very idle can actually master. And since I'm in the third category, I could go on and on about obscure sofas like these:

A confident, pronounced "CON fee dah(n)", also called a tête-à-tête, pronounced "TET ah TET", and ALSO called a vis-à-vis, pronounced "VEEZ-ah-VEE", like this one by Salvador Dali:

Note how the confident is essentially in the shape of an S and how it accomodates only two people.

Then there's the indiscret, pronounced "IN de cray") a sofa-like piece designed very similar to a confident but made for three people:

An indiscret can also be round like this Napoleon III one:

Another weird sofa is the caseuse, pronounced "coh ZURZ", which is just a fancy name for a love seat. Here's a grand Louis XVI example:

And finally there's a boudeuse (pronounced "boo DURZ"), defined loosely as an upholstered salon seat that shares one back between them, like this one:

I think that's it for now. Buzz out.